A commonly asked question, (with over 33,000 monthly Google searches!), is ‘how do I build muscle?’ When people talk about ‘bulking’ this is what they’re referring to. What was once a niche term used in the world of bodybuilding has become more commonplace as regular gym-going, exercise and supplements have become a way of life for the general public looking to keep fit and stay healthy.
Bulking is the term used to describe a period of exercise training and eating with the aim of increasing muscle mass. Bulking is essentially eating more calories than the body needs for a set amount of time before cutting calories, which loses any excess body fat gained during the bulk, while maintaining the muscle.
To bulk up and build muscle, your body needs an excess of calories. At its most basic level, to put weight on, you need to consume more energy (through calories) than you use.
Bulking is the art of consuming the correct amount of calories for your body to build muscle, without putting weight on through fat.
While there are general guidelines for calorie consumption (2,000kcal a day for women and 2,500kcal for men), it differs depending on factors such as age, weight, height and activity. If you’re looking to bulk up you’ll need to significantly increase calorie consumption - and as long as you ingest more calories than you need, you’ll have the energy surplus needed to gain weight.
By providing your muscles with growth stimulus via intense training, these excess calories, especially protein, will aid muscle hypertrophy (an increase in the volume and size of muscle cells). However, a calorie surplus without the necessary resistance training for muscle growth will just result in putting weight on via an increase in fat reserves.
Bulking can be done in two ways:
Clean bulking is adding excess calories with healthy foods. The kind of food during a clean bulk is similar to the food eaten when cutting (see our blog post about cutting for more information). Most of the food eaten should be highly nutritious while adding more calories. Bulking this way normally leads to leaner bulk and is definitely more healthy.
Dirty bulking is the same process of adding calories, but without the regard for nutritious foods. Some people see it as an excuse to eat all the treat foods (and drinks!) they have to miss out on when they are cutting, such as chocolate, cake, alcohol and so on. These are heavy on the calories but light on nutrients, therefore clean bulking is really recommended over this method.
With our guide to smart bulking, we’ll let you know how to maximise efficiency to ensure muscle is being built as fast as possible while ensuring we minimise the fat being added at the same time. We can do this using these 4 ways to bulk up quickly: using the right combination of diet, supplements, exercise and rest.1. Bulking diet
As described earlier, in order to gain weight, you must create a surplus of calories over time. Many people fall at this first hurdle and simply do not eat enough to gain and maintain significant levels of muscle mass. A daily surplus of between 250 and 500 calories is recommended for gaining good quality muscle (too much more than this and even naturally skinny people run the risk of putting on fat).
When looking for extra muscular size, we recommend eating 6 to 8 smaller meals throughout the day. Evenly space your meals to aid digestion and allow your body to properly absorb the calories.
Carbohydrates are what our body uses for energy and are available for immediate use when needed. When not needed though, they are stored as fat. (This is why you hear about some popular diet fads that involve cutting out carbs completely.) Carbohydrates can be sourced from slow digesting foods like quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice and oats. Around the time of your gym session, faster digesting carbs are better because of their ability to fuel a workout. Good examples are fruits, honey or waxy maize starch.
Protein serves as structural support for our body: our muscles. Protein is used to repair our muscles after a workout and to build them further. Remember that our muscles repair themselves most during sleep, not while you’re working out. Good sources of protein include lean meats, eggs and whey protein supplements.
Fats come in bad forms and good forms. Saturated fat, found mainly in cooking oils (coconut oil, peanut oil) and butter, is the unhealthiest type of fat. The healthier fat is monounsaturated fat, found mainly in sesame oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and fish oil or omega supplements.
The recommended proportion of these key food groups changes depending who you ask, but a ratio of 25% protein, 40% carbs and 35% fat is a good starting point when bulking.
Here is an example of a daily regime that works wonders during bulking:
Meal 1: 5 egg whites, 3oz of lean meat, a cup of oatmeal and a handful of blueberries
Meal 2: 8oz of chicken, a cup of white rice and a cup of broccoli
Meal 3: 8 oz of lean turkey, 10oz of sweet potato and a cup of asparagus
Meal 4: a bagel or sandwich with almond butter
Meal 5: 8oz steak, 8oz of sweet potato, a cup of green beans and a handful of almonds
Meal 6: 5 egg whites and a tablespoon of almond butter
As well as ensuring you have the correct diet, supplements can play a key part when it comes to reaching your goals. ConVits have developed a bulking pack which provides a complete daily supplement regime for nutritional support when you’re bulking. Our 28 day pack works out at just 89 pence per day, and gives the ideal ratios and volume of high quality minerals and vitamins required which provides a solid foundation for muscle growth and repair. With each day’s regime in a convenient sachet, you can take it with you whether you’re at the gym or away from home.
Here are a couple of examples of the supplements and benefits you can take advantage of when using our bulking pack:
Essential Amino Acids have key benefits when it comes to muscle-building, especially BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). This is because amino acids are the building blocks that make up protein - the fuel for your muscles. Your body puts them together like Lego blocks, to create and build muscle.
Omega 3 Fish Oils: When looking to maximize muscle building and fat loss, fish oil is a supplement that is key to add to your daily diet. Having higher levels of these fatty acids in the muscle cell can enhance muscle growth.
A key part of your bulking regime is weightlifting. We recommend 4 sessions a week as follows:
It is very important to incorporate rest days into your training program (as we discuss later) to allow time for your muscles to recover between workouts. When training on consecutive days, ensure that you target different muscle groups (for example chest on day 1, and legs on day 2).
Here is an example of a weightlifting regime for bulking which follows our recommendations and gives great guidance on form and technique.
When bulking, cardio should be kept to a minimum. One of the main effects of cardio is that it burns a large amount of calories in a short space of time: the polar opposite of what we’re trying to achieve when bulking.
When considering your cardio regime, it is best to do it on one of your rest days from the weight lifting schedule. We’d recommend eating a portion of carbohydrates on your cardio day and exercising for about 20 minutes, whether this is running, cross training or cycling.
Rest and recovery is an extremely important and oft-neglected part of a bulking muscle building program. We all know people who insist on going to the gym every day despite this advice: they are actually undermining their own muscle building efforts. Incorporating rest days into your weight training programme is very important. These are the times when your body repairs and rebuilds muscle and connective tissue, and the muscles get bigger. Not allowing enough rest days can result in reduced results, or worse, overtraining and injury.
A lack of sleep can also hinder muscle growth and decrease energy levels. It becomes very difficult to build muscle without enough sleep. Remember: your body builds muscle tissue when you are not weight training. Simply put, you build muscle while you are sleeping, not while you are working out! If you weight train and don't get enough proper rest, or train too regularly, it can become very difficult to build muscle.
Once you’ve undergone your bulking regime, the next phase is a period of ‘cutting’ to really get lean and show off your muscle definition. Stay tuned to the ConVits blog for our next article which will cover this very topic, and check out our cutting pack. In the meantime, good luck with your bulking!
Why not find out what nutrients you could be missing in your daily diet? Take the ConVits lifestyle survey today buy hitting the link below and receive your 1st 28 day pack absolutely FREE...